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Saturday 23 September 2017

Find out how this Kildare farmer drives output on his dairy calf to beef farm

Joe Farrell rears and finishes Angus heifers and Friesian bulls on his farm at Castledermot, Co Kildare
Joe Farrell rears and finishes Angus heifers and Friesian bulls on his farm at Castledermot, Co Kildare

Farming Independent Team

JOE FARRELL and his family will host a Teagasc Green Acres Calf to Beef farm walk on their farm outside of Castledermot, Co Kildare on April 25, starting at 11.00am.

The event will focus on Joe`s system of production, calf rearing and health, grassland management and financial performance. The Farrells run a mixed farm consisting of both a tillage and dairy calf to beef enterprises.

The farm was traditionally split equally between the tillage and the calf to beef enterprises, but with the continued poor prices for grain over the last few years Joe has reseeded more tillage ground and increased the cattle numbers.

Prior to joining the Teagasc Green Acres calf to beef programme, Joe purchased 80 Angus/ Hereford heifers and 15 Friesian bull calves from the dairy herd in the March/April period each year.

The 15 Friesians were slaughtered in June of the following year at less than 16 months of age and the heifers at 22 to 24 months in the December to March period.

Joe Farrell produced great quality first cut silage.
Joe Farrell produced great quality first cut silage.

Calves were always bought in at two to three weeks of age and reared on milk replacer, straw, fresh water plus concentrate for the first 10 weeks and then went to grass for their first grazing season receiving one kg of concentrate per day.

They were housed in mid to late November and fed silage and concentrates. the level of concentrate supplementation was based on the quality of the silage. The Friesian bulls were built up to ad lib feeding and slaughtered out of the shed in June.

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Following a second year at grass the heifers were housed full time on a straw bed and built up to five kgs of concentrates per day for finishing. Heifers were slaughtered from December to March out of the shed as they became fit.

The plan for Joe over the course of the Teagasc Green Acres programme is to drive output on the farm and sell more kilos of beef per hectare by utilising more grass. In order to do this Joe has decided to make a few farm management adjustments.

A grassland plan has been put in place where Joe will make better use of grazed grass through the introduction of a paddock system, grass measuring, maintaining soil fertility levels, getting cattle out earlier and also introducing a reseeding programme.

The numbers of calves reared on the farm has increased to approximately 140 over the last two years and an additional 30–40 weanlings are also bought in each autumn.

Due to the high cost of the Angus heifer calf and the lighter carcass at slaughter, Joe has decided to buy in more Friesian bull calves which will be castrated and slaughtered as steers from 24–28 months out of the shed and some off of grass in the third grazing season.

This will allow Joe to reduce the cost of purchasing calves, while also having a heavier carcass to sell. Joe has recently purchased a milk feeding cart which will greatly help reduce the labour involved in calf rearing.

Calves will be purchased as early as possible in February/March so that a strong calf will go to grass in the first season, this will allow more of the heifers to be slaughtered off grass before the second winter period, thereby reducing housing requirements.

Indo Farming